Heat, drought prompt Harris’ burn ban

Heat, drought prompt Harris’ burn ban

24 June 2009

published by www.chron.com


For whatever comfort it brings, Houston is not alone in its sun-baked, overcooked, desiccated misery. It’s in the 90s in Minnesota, pushing 100 in Memphis and threatening 110 in Phoenix. Then there’s always New Delhi.

But of course Tuesday was not a day when “Houston” and “comfort” could easily be used in the same sentence. The temperature officially hit 101, a record for the date and 9 degrees above normal. There is little hope for improvement for the rest of the week. Expect the mercury to reach 101 today.

Because of the hot weather and lack of rainfall, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett imposed a ban on the sale and use of some fireworks Tuesday as vendors prepare to open sales for the July Fourth holiday. Emmett issued a county disaster declaration and forbade the sale or use of stick rockets and missiles with fins within Harris County, where the risk of danger to residential and commercial areas is “unacceptably high.”

“Public safety is my top priority in this matter, and this declaration is absolutely necessary to ensure that Harris County residents remain as safe as possible in these weather conditions,” Emmett said in a statement.

Also Tuesday, Commissioners Court enacted a burn ban for unincorporated areas of the county, responding to a recommendation from the fire marshal, who has seen an uptick in the number of grass fires. The ban, unanimously approved, could last up to 90 days.

“I am really concerned about how dry it is,” Fire Marshall Mike Montgomery said.

Dozens of fireworks vendors appeared before Commissioners Court asking the county not to ban outright the sale of fireworks, which many said they rely on for their livelihoods. They noted that the industry voluntarily agreed not to sell stick rockets and missiles.

“While I applaud the voluntary sales ban to which many merchants have already agreed,” Emmett said, “this declaration extends that ban not just to sales but also to the use and transportation of these particular fireworks by anyone other than a licensed pyrotechnics expert at a permitted event.”

Emmett’s declaration took effect at midnight, and Gov. Rick Perry has 60 hours to approve it.

The scorching month of June, which followed a mild spring, is evoking memories of the brutal summer of 1980 that accounted for 32 days of triple-digit high temperatures. Ten record daily highs were set in June alone that summer.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Kyle said a large dome of high pressure is keeping a lid on moisture and preventing storms or significant cloud cover from developing. As a result, the daily heat index is running between 105 and 110 degrees.

“The high pressure is not moving,” Kyle said. “The moisture is there, but it’s trapped fairly close to the surface. The high pressure above us is causing the air to sink and not allow the moisture to rise up and make clouds. If anyone gets any rainfall in the next five to 10 days, they should consider themselves lucky.”

After today, the weather service forecast calls for highs in the upper 90s through Tuesday, with lows through that period in the mid- to upper 70s. Some isolated areas might have a chance at a little rain Thursday.

Also, state environmental regulators issued an ozone watch for the Houston area, meaning conditions are ripe for the formation of lung-scratching smog.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien